cheapest medium format film camera

It is necessary to know the options for this 2022 in terms of affordable medium format film cameras, that is why we have prepared a list of cameras that can be useful for beginners and advanced users.

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1. ZEISS SUPER IKONTA B

The Zeiss Super Ikonta B was manufactured in the early 1930’s until past the 1950’s, it was a very popular camera among amateurs of the time, it was very portable as it had a camera that could be folded inside the body.

The camera folding system was very popular in the early 20th century, with Agfa being one of the first to implement it on 35mm and 127 film cameras.

The Zeiss Super Ikonta B features an uncoated 80mm/2.8 lens. The shutter speed tops at 1/400th through Zeiss’ Compur rapid shutter.

The camera uses the Zeiss Ikon rotating wedge-prism to provide a clear focus and has double exposure prevention, a combined viewfinder/rangefinder, mechanical film counter, and top-mounted shutter release. 

venice by Pavel Ruzicka

Without a doubt it is a camera that deserves a look, even more so if you are one of those who found one in grandpa’s basement.

Its estimated price is between 50-300 $ USD depending on the condition.


2. KIEV 60

Manufactured by the Arsenal Factory in Kiev, Ukraine, the Kiev 60 is a bigger model medium format camera.

The Kiev 60 is the Russian version of the German Pentacon Praktisix medium format. The Kiev, redesigned to be the 60 in 1984, moved the shutter from the left to the right.

Features a Volna-3 80mm 1:2.8-22 lens. A cloth curtain shutter, shutter speed b, 1/2 – 1/1000. In order to cover the large negative at the film plane, the focal length is increased. Has an optional waist level finder and a removable pentaprism.

Being an SLR it is quite intuitive for the user who is used to this system, yes, it is not a very sophisticated camera, it can be noisy and rough, but without a doubt the resulting photos are very outstanding.. 

sample by Ty Nigh

We could consider it an even more affordable option than the Pentax 67 for example.

Its estimated price is between 50-200$ USD depending on the condition, accessories and lenses with which it comes.


3. YASHICA MAT 124G

The Yashica Mat 124g is a TLR camera made in Japan, in its time it was known to be a cheap alternative to the German Rolleiflex.

But we will say that the characteristics of this make it a very interesting option for those who want to venture into the world of medium format.

As we mentioned, being a TLR (Twin lens reflex), it has two lenses, one to focus and the other to capture the image.

Both lenses are fixed at 80mm, the viewing lens is f2.8, the taking is f3.5, and the shutter speeds range from 1-second to 1/500th.

The Yashica Mat is a 6×6 camera, that is, it captures 6cm frames per side and uses 120 films.

shot by Robert Couse-Baker

Has a focusing knob, light meter, and a waist-level finder with a focusing screen. Controls for the shutter speed and aperture are on the front of the camera, making navigating them simple and effective.

Its estimated price is between 200-300 $ USD depending on the condition and accessories that the camera brings.


4. MINOLTA AUTOCORD

The Minolta Autocord is the evolution of the Minoltaflex of the early 1930’s. It is another TLR alternative to the Rolleiflex, although for many, it is its possible competitor.

It is also made in Japan by Chiyoda Kogaku Seiko. It is built to shine, as the engineering of this camera is quite sophisticated.

The Autocord has a round lens sensor dial that can be rotated to adjust the three settings of the model—off, low, and high.

shot by Jennifer Oui

Features a Minolta Rokkor f/3.5 / 75mm taking lens and a Citizen-MVL shutter, Bulb position (B) and 1 to 1/500 sec

Its estimated price is between 60-300 $ USD depending on the condition.


5. ROLLEICORD

Another TLR, the Rolleicord is a high-quality camera made with amateur photographers in mind. Produced in two variations, a version with extravagantly patterned metal faceplates, or a plain leatherette covering.

The latter sports the nifty ‘Art Deco’ designation. Many models were made, with the later models generally being more expensive and sought after due to the improvements made to them.

Features a 75mm f/4.5 Zeiss Triotar lens. This model uses a knob instead of a crank—what is generally found on the Rolleiflex

shot by Paul Tom

In conclusion, what makes this camera stand out from the previous ones is the quality of its construction, giving it remarkable reliability.

Its estimated price is between approximately 200

5 Best Medium Format Cameras for Beginners

It happens to the best of us. At some point in the photographic journey, every photo geek is going to run into a wall. Things get stale. You’ve been shooting the same subjects with the same camera for too many years, and there’s no way to avoid the truth that you’re getting bored with photography.

But it doesn’t have to stay this way. There are things we can do to stave off the inevitable onset of photographic ennui. Traveling, shooting with friends or alone, and taking a break from shooting are all useful tools in the toolbox of every happy photographer.

But if you’ve tried all this and you’re still a bit bored, a bit blasé about this whole photography thing, the problem may just rest with your format. Crop sensors? Full-frame? 35mm film? Get real. That stuff is so dull, and puny, and pathetic. You need a bigger format! You need something with depth and charisma! You need to shoot medium format.

But with so many cameras to choose from, how do you know which is right for you?

It’s cool. We’ve got you covered.

Here’s a list of five excellent medium format film cameras for shooters new to the vast frontier of medium format.

Before we get going, you might be wondering why you should bother shooting medium format? Technically, there are some good reasons. Better image quality than 35mm, massive negatives capable of making exceptionally large and detailed prints, and a certain unquantifiable depth of imagery, to name just a few.

But beyond the technical stuff, there’s an even more important reason to shoot medium format. It’s something different. Shooting a medium format camera is something new to engage with, something new to learn. It’ll slow down your process, make you contemplate the craft, and force you to rethink the way you participate in photography (even when using your everyday camera). Medium format will help you grow as a photographer, help you see the world in a new way, and help open doors in your photographic armory that you didn’t even know existed.

Now that you’re keenly interested (and how could you not be?), here’s the list. There are many more cameras worth owning that aren’t included here, but if you choose any one of these machines as your first medium format camera you will certainly not be disappointed.


Rolleicord

We start with the machine that just might be the quintessential camera for shooters taking their first steps into the world of medium format. After all, the first Rolleicord from 1933 was conceived to fill this very niche; a quality camera for amateurs who didn’t need or weren’t willing to pay for the exceptional Rolleiflex.

These qualities that defined the camera from the 1930s through to the ’70s are the same qualities that make it easy to recommend to new shooters today. It’s a superb machine, entirely mechanical, beautifully built, and incredibly engaging. It looks like nothing you’ll see on the streets today, and when held in the hand it’s clear that one’s holding a truly purposeful machine.

Shooting the Rollei is a slow, methodical process, and that’s exactly what we’re looking for when we’re trying to break out of our photographic malaise. The massive, beautiful viewfinder is especially magical to shooters who may be coming from digital cameras or 35mm SLRs, and seeing the world through it is one of those experiences every photographer should have on a regular basis.

The 6×6 cm images it makes are just abnormal enough to be exciting, and shooters of the Instagram generation will feel right at home composing in a square. And for those who can’t do without 35mm, there’s a charming adapter that allows the Rollei to use the more modern full-frame format.

While the numerous models of Rolleicord all share the same DNA, it may be beneficial to hunt down the youngest model you can afford, since the taking lens benefitted from improvement over time. Even so, its optics never matched those of its more professional sibling the ‘Flex, but this discrepancy has happily kept the cost of these cameras lower than one would expect.

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Minolta Autocord

Our next machine is a camera that’s similar to the Rolleicord in many ways, so comparison seems inevitable. I reviewed the Autocord some time back, and long time readers will know I love it. It’s a camera I’ve chosen not to live without (which is a strong endorsement from someone who runs a camera shop). More than any other TLR I’ve used, the Autocord offers the perfect balance of build quality, photographic capability, and price.

While it’s not as robust or precise as the Rolleicord previously mentioned, it does trump that camera in some respects. For one, its ergonomics are better. Camera controls and focusing are simpler and more fluid than with the Rollei. Its optics are just as good (and some claim better) than its German counterpart, and its focusing screen is nearly as beautiful. Again showing similarity to its more expensive, German rival, images are made in 6×6 cm square format, which brings all the same assets and liabilities that come with the Rollei.

Where the Autocord truly trounces the competition, though, is surely economics. Where a beautiful Rolleicord can cost hundreds, it’s possible for a patient and shrewd Autocord buyer to secure one for under $100. That’s simply amazing when one considers the true value of this timeless machine.

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Mamiya RB67

Up to now the cameras on our list have been TLRs, but here we have something else entirely. The Mamiya RB67 is an SLR, just like your Canon AE-1 or Nikon D810. As such, its operation is a little less archaic than the ‘Cords listed above. But that’s not to say it’ll be familiar. No, this camera will retain the perfect degree of mystery to shooters unaccustomed to medium format.

It’s easy to recommend for many of the same reasons as the Autocord; it’s strongly built, affordable, and charming. But it’s more advanced than that camera in some really important ways, not least of which is its ability to swap an incredible number of lenses, viewfinders, and film backs. Mamiya’s lineup of medium format lenses is second to very few in the MF game. Their glass produces incredible images across the range, and the prices for many key lenses are unbelievably low. The inclusion of a bellows focusing system means that any lens can be used as a macro lens, and the camera’s ability to shoot a number of different image sizes adds untold versatility to an already impressive feature set.

Of course, all this modularity comes at the cost of size and weight. The Mamiya system is large and heavy. At over 2000 grams, it’s more than double the heft of the TLRs. Does the bulk outweigh the joy offered by this glorious machine? I don’t think so. It’s a truly wonderful camera that’s worth its weight in (if not gold) film. For those with deeper pockets, spring for the more advanced RZ67.

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Pentax 645

No list of great medium format cameras would be complete without a Pentax. The often-overlooked company is one of the best in the business when it comes to this sort of thing. And one of their cameras that’s easiest to both use, and recommend, is the 645.

This machine is another SLR camera with interchangeable lenses, though unlike many other medium format SLRs it lacks the ability to change film backs and viewfinders. In a way, this simplifies things and creates an ecosystem more familiar to 35mm and DSLR shooters. There’s less to think about when we’re forever shooting 6×4.5 cm images through a fixed pentaprism.

But while this might drive some to think it’s a feature-light machine, this isn’t the case. It offers many advanced features not found in similarly priced cameras, such as motor-drive capable of 1.5 FPS, TTL metering system, and multiple auto-exposure modes (the only camera on our list to do so). A drool-worthy selection of SMC Pentax lenses signals the camera’s intent to be a world-class machine, and it’s a camera that will be happy to grow with you.

For what you get with the 645, the price is remarkable, and I for one am looking forward to the day I get to review this venerable machine.

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Holga 120

Easily the most approachable, affordable, and easy-to-use camera of the group, the Holga 120 is something of a legend in the toy camera world. The now-famous plastic box from China has found unmitigated success with photographers all over the world. And whether you love or eschew its lo-fi, unpredictable images, there’s no denying the Holga deserves a spot on any list of influential cameras.

The massive variety of models, lenses, and features across the Holga 120 range ensures that there’s a Holga for every desire. Want a pinhole Holga? No problem. Looking for a Holga with a glass lens? Easy to find. Wide-angle Holga? Stereo Holga? Panoramic Holga? TLR? TLR with glass lens? Color flash? 3D Holga with two pinhole lenses in an ultra-wide body?

Yes. There are a staggering number of Holga 120s out there. They’re light, cheap, and produce images that are objectively low quality, and that’s kind of the point. The Holga is what it is, and it makes no apologies. And if you think gorgeous art can’t be made with one, think again.

Though the factory that made these cameras was closed in 2015, massive supply ensures that these plastic wonders will be available for a long time to come. For shooters looking for a cheap but extremely fun entry into medium format, the Holga is it.

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